Amara Enyia in Humboldt Park during her mayoral campaign last year. File.

Amara Enyia, the executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and a public policy consultant, announced earlier this month that she’s formally considering a run for the congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th). Enyia, who lives in East Garfield Park, filed the paperwork to establish an exploratory committee on Sept. 8.

In a statement, Enyia said the exploratory committee would allow her to gauge whether residents of the 7th District want a leadership change.

“Now is the time for bold, servant leadership that empowers the residents of the 7th District and drives an aggressive, transformative agenda that is global in scope with maximum local impact,” Enyia noted in the statement, which articulated a platform calling for “investment in the key sections critical to the 21st century economy, including medicine and medical research, information technlogy, advanced manufacturing, and transportation/logistics.” 

In a recent phone interview, she said the committee has gotten “overwhelming support from people excited about the future.”

“I think this is the right time,” Enyia said. “We have an opportunity to do some really bold and exciting things in the district … Congressman Davis has had a long career and served the people of the 7th District and I can’t take anything away from that; but we’ve got to move into the future and can’t be stuck in the past. Just looking around the community, it’s clear we have to demand more from our leadership.”

Enyia ran for Mayor of Chicago last year before eventually withdrawing from the race and endorsing Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd). Enyia received a Ph.D. in education policy and a law degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She once served two years as a public policy fellow for former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley.

The 32-year-old said she’s gotten overwhelming support from residents regarding a possible congressional run, noting that she’d retain much of the campaign apparatus she built during her mayoral bid.

Asked how confident she is that she’ll formally announce her entry into the Democratic primary for Davis’s seat, she responded that she feels “very, very good” about a possible run and is encouraged by the amount of enthusiasm she’s encountering across the district. 

“The sentiment broadly is that, yes, the incumbent has been in office, he’s done his service, he’s given years and years and years of service and nothing can be taken away from that, but what’s next and whose going to take us there?”

Enyia said she’ll spend the rest of September and the entire month of October to conduct what she’s calling an “opportunity tour” to “connect with people all over the 7th District and to hear their visions” for the district.”

The tours, which will start next week, will take the possible candidate across the city and suburbs of the 7th District. She said she likely won’t make a formal announcement until the tour is complete. The tour dates and locations will soon be available online, Enyia said.

“We’ll have a much clearer sense [of whether to announce or not] once we’ve done an opportunity tour and gauged resident sentiment,” she said.

Earlier this month, Davis, 74, announced that he’s running to retain a seat he first won in 1996. The announcement ended rumors and speculation that the veteran legislator would retire and try positioning an heir-apparent to take over for him.

The Chicago Sun-Times quoted Chicago Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), rumored to be a potential challenger for Davis’s seat should the congressman retire, as saying, “there are widespread rumors that Davis would pull out at a late stage, giving a handpicked, privately anointed successor a better chance to ramp up for the race than others who might want to run.”

If Enyia decides to run, she’ll join at least two other candidates — retired Chicago police officer Frederick Collins and Iraq War veteran Thomas Day — who have formally announced their intentions to unseat Davis.

Full disclosure: Amara Enyia is a regular columnist for Austin Weekly News, a position that will end if she decides to run for Congress. 

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